House Adopts Measure Championed by Representative Malinowski to Mitigate Rahway River Flooding

December 8, 2020
Press Release
Bicameral Water Resources Development Bill addresses urgent water resource and flood prevention needs for communities in NJ-07

(Washington, DC) Today, the House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2020. The bill, which is the product of bipartisan, bicameral compromise, includes several priorities championed by Representative Tom Malinowski to help address the local water resource and flood mitigation needs of communities throughout New Jersey. The legislation is expected to pass the Senate soon.

The bill nullifies the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision last year to terminate the Rahway River Flood Risk Management Feasibility Study. Instead, it directs the Corps to expedite the completion of the study, and to stay engaged with local leaders to determine and carry out the work necessary to prevent further flooding. For years, homeowners and businessowners near the Rahway River have lived under the near-constant threat of flooding from heavy rains. In Cranford, after Hurricane Irene, water from the Rahway poured into thousands of homes, caused millions of dollars in damages to local schools, and left thousands of residents without power, including many seniors. Other towns in the 7th District, such as Millburn, Union, and Springfield, face similar risks.

The inclusion of the language on the Rahway study in the bill follows Representative Malinowski’s tough questioning of the Corps’ leadership over the course of the past year about its level of commitment to the region, and a letter to the Corps that noted “the need to protect these communities is evident” and “the Army Corps must not walk away from their responsibility in finding an acceptable solution.”

“The Water Resources Development Act will modernize our nation’s water resources infrastructure, which will in turn help reduce flood damage and protect and restore our ecosystems,” said Representative Malinowski. “As a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and its Water Resources Subcommittee, I worked hard to ensure that the needs of communities like Cranford at risk of flooding from the Rahway River would be addressed, and I’m glad we were successful.”

Among other provisions, the WRDA 2020 bill: 

  • Creates a demonstration program to effectively detect, prevent, treat, and eliminate harmful algal blooms associated with water resources development projects—New Jersey is designated as a focus area for the program. Harmful algal blooms have been identified in Lake Hopatcong and Budd Lake, among other waterbodies in the state.
  • Reaffirms the commitment to greater use of natural and nature-based projects by ensuring natural alternatives are fully evaluated by the Corps and are provided the same cost-share as structural alternatives.
  • Authorizes construction of the Hudson Raritan Estuary Ecosystem Restoration project, which will restore 621 acres of habitat and reduce long-term and large-scale degradation in the Hudson Raritan Estuary. 
  • Authorizes construction of the Rahway River Basin Coastal Storm Risk Management project to reduce the risk of damages from flooding in northeastern New Jersey.
  • Authorizes a reevaluation study of the Upper Basin and Stony Brook portions of the Green Brook Flood Risk Management project to determine what features of flood risk management should be implemented in areas that continue to face flood risks. The Green Brook project covers portions of three counties and 13 municipalities, including Bound Brook, Bridgewater, Green Brook, North Plainfield, Warren, Watchung, Berkeley Heights, Plainfield, and Scotch Plains.
  • Authorizes construction of the New Jersey Beneficial Use of Dredged Material for the Delaware River project, which will use sand dredged from the Delaware River and Bay to construct beach berms to reduce coastal storm damage. 

Additional information about WRDA 2020, including the bill text, fact sheet, and section-by-section, can be found here.